Last Updated Nov 03, 2022, 9:15 AM

UFC 241 Best Bets

It’s been the Nate Diaz Show throughout Fight Week in Anaheim ahead of Saturday’s stacked UFC 241 card at Honda Center. Daniel ‘DC’ Cormier will attempt to make his second heavyweight title defense against the former champ, Stipe Miocic, in the main event.

In the co-main event, Diaz will return to the Octagon for the first time in nearly three years to take on Anthony ‘Showtime’ Pettis in a three-round welterweight contest.

As of early Friday afternoon, most betting shops had Cormier (22-1-1 MMA, 11-1-1 UFC) installed as a -145 favorite, leaving Miocic as a +125 underdog (risk $100 to win $125). William Hill had the total at 2.5 rounds shaded to the ‘under’ at a -137 price (+100 for ‘over’ backers).

Cormier won the belt from Miocic with a first-round knockout at UFC 226 on July 7 of 2018. He successfully defended his strap with a second-round submission victory over Derrick Lewis at UFC 230 last November.

Both fighters were cordial and respectful going into their last clash. The fight never went to the ground and Miocic was mostly getting the better of the striking exchanges in the first three minutes of action.

However, Cormier became more aggressive with his offense later in the stanza. He backed Miocic up with a combination and you sensed the momentum shifting. Cormier had found a nice rhythm as they clinched in the center of the cage.

As they separated, Cormier landed a short right perfectly on the chin. The punch dropped Miocic and Cormier pounced with multiple ground-and-pound punches that bounced Miocic’s head off the canvas, forcing the referee to intervene with 27 seconds remaining in the opening round.

Former UFC heavyweight champ Brock Lesnar was in attendance and Cormier called him into the Octagon during his post-fight interview. Lesnar darted into the cage and shoved Cormier across the Octagon. Some friendly verbal banter was exchanged and the narrative from Dana White was revealed later that night: Lesnar would be entering the USADA program and would come out of retirement to fight Cormier in early 2019.

Lesnar did indeed enter the USADA program and reportedly passed nine tests. In the end, however, Lesnar decided to re-sign with the WWE and the fight never came to fruition. Part of White’s explanation for trying to make that scrap was a reward for Cormier, who has been a good solider for the company and would’ve made a fortune against Lesnar, who was the promotion’s biggest pay-per-view draw before Conor McGregor came on the scene.

Miocic has been on the sidelines since Cormier snapped his six-fight winning streak. He had taken the belt from Fabricio Werdum with a first-round KO win down in Brazil at UFC 198. Then he set a UFC record with three straight title defenses, dusting Alistair Overeem and Junior dos Santos via first-round KOs.

The 36-year-old Miocic (18-3 MMA, 12-3 UFC) exposed power puncher Francis Ngannou with a unanimous-decision blowout win at UFC 220. Considering how no UFC heavyweight had ever successfully defended the strap more than twice prior to Miocic’s reign, it was understandable that he was frustrated with Lesnar’s ability to jump out of retirement and fight for the belt right away, especially after popping dirty for PEDs in his last comeback bout at UFC 200.

Many fighters – Frankie Edgar with Benson Henderson, Renan Barao with T.J. Dillashaw and Anderson Silva with Chris Weidman, just to name a few – had been given immediate rematches after losing their belts in the past. Therefore, it was understandable that Miocic was frustrated as he watched the Lesnar-Cormier fight fall apart.

As he voiced his complaints, Cormier remarked that Miocic was acting “entitled and like a brat.” Those comments are what have fueled some (not a ton, to be clear) bad blood between the fighters going into Saturday night.

Cormier has never lost at heavyweight. His scalps include ‘Bigfoot’ Silva (in his prime after he had beaten Fedor), Josh Barnett, former two-time UFC heavyweight champ Frank Mir and Roy ‘Big Country’ Nelson. Miocic owns additional victories over the likes of Nelson, Gabriel Gonzaga, Fabio Maldonado, Mark Hunt and former UFC heavyweight kingpin Andrei Arlovski.

Both men hit the scales lighter on Friday morning. In the first meeting, Miocic came in at 242.5 pounds. He was 230.5 pounds this time around. Cormier was 246.5 at UFC 226 and 251.2 in his win over Lewis. ‘DC’ came in at 236.5 pounds on Friday morning.

Prediction: Father Time remains undefeated. Miocic is getting up there in years as well, but Cormier is four years his senior at 40. He’s also coming off surgery. Remember, Miocic is five inches taller and has a 7.5-inch reach advantage. He was busting Cormier up for most of the first fight and simply got too confident that he could handle Cormier’s power. Miocic won’t do that again. Now certainly, we could see a completely different fight with Cormier going to his wrestling base, a facet of his game he didn’t utilize the last time around. But Miocic’s size will help him in that department, and I think he’s superior on the feet. I think Miocic takes his strap back and I’ll go with two units on the Ohio native for a +125 return (Westgate SuperBook).

It’s so great to have one of the Diaz Brothers back in the mix! Remember when White claimed Nate “didn’t move the needle” 4-5 years ago? Well, it’s clear as can be that White was wrong to begin with or that things have changed significantly.

His presence during Fight Week prompted Yahoo’s Dan Wetzel, who many consider to be the best sports writer in the business these days, to write about Nate’s return. The New York Times also had a feature story on Diaz.

On the UFC’s YouTube channel, it breaks up its UFC 241 Countdown show into two different parts – one for the main event and the other for the co-main. As of early Friday, the Diaz-Pettis Countdown preview had received 1.8 million views. As for Cormier-Miocic, it had been viewed merely 640,000 times.

For other entertaining Diaz features, you can check out Chuck Mindenhall’s piece at The Athletic and Brett Okamoto’s 40-minute interview on ESPN’s MMA YouTube channel. Both are money.

Diaz (19-11 MMA, 14-9 UFC) is fighting at welterweight for the seventh time in his career. He’s 3-3 in the 170-pound loop, including a second-round submission win over Conor McGregor at UFC 196 and a majority-decision loss to McGregor in their rematch at UFC 202 (which VegasInsider scored 48-47 in favor of Diaz).

Diaz has been nothing but fireworks all week long, lighting a joint to start his open workout in front of media members and fans galore on Wednesday. Afterward, he conducted a colorful media scrum that apparently lasted long enough for White to give Diaz a pass on showing up to Thursday’s media event.

The Stockton, Calif., product won Season Five of the Ultimate Fighter. He has bagged three Fight of the Night bonuses in his past three scraps to bring his career total to eight, which is a UFC record. He ranks in a second-place tie with Joe Lauzon for most career post-fight bonuses (15) in UFC history.

Diaz owns notable career victories over the likes of Melvin Guillard, Takanori Gomi, Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone, Jim Miller, Gray Maynard and Michael Johnson. He’s only been finished twice in his career by Josh Thomson (head kick and punches) and Hermes Franca (submission in 2006 when Nate was only 21). The 34-year-old Diaz has 12 wins by submission and four Kos, and two of his defeats were by split decision to Maynard and Clay Guida.

Pettis (22-8 MMA, 9-7 UFC) is the former lightweight champ who made his welterweight debut on March 23 in the UFC Nashville headliner. Pettis scored a second-round KO victory over Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson as a +310 underdog.

Pettis won the 155-pound belt by beating Benson Henderson at UFC 164. He successfully defended his strap with a second-round submission win over Diaz’s long-time friend and teammate, Gilbert Melendez. However, ‘Showtime’ lost the belt to Rafael dos Anjos at UFC 185, beginning a 1-4 slide during a five-fight stretch in 2015 and ’16.

Whatever Pettis lost during that two-year slump, he’s regained it in his past five fights. He’s beaten Thompson, Jim Miller (UD) and Michael Chiesa (triangle armbar), while his two losses to Dustin Poirier and Tony Ferguson won Fight of the Night honors. Pettis’s coach stopped the bloodbath with Ferguson at the end of Round 2 because Pettis had one broken hand and the other was banged up as well.

Prediction: Cage rust in reference to a Diaz Brother? Child, please! Cardio is the last issue a bettor needs to be concerned about with Diaz. Not only has he constantly been training during his three-year hiatus, but Diaz appears to have put on quite a bit of muscle. He already owns a two-inch height edge and a 3.5-inch reach advantage on Pettis, and I think his size and strength will play a pivotal role in getting his hand raised. Diaz leans heavily on his lead left leg in his boxing stance and former opponents like Henderson, Dos Anjos and Mcgregor (in the rematch) have punished that leg with kicks galore. I have no doubt that Pettis will do the same and probably have a lot of success with that approach in the early going. Nevertheless, I just feel like Nate has too much for ‘Showtime.’ Look for him to take over in Round 2 and wear Pettis out in the third stanza if we get that far. Give me two units on Diaz as a +115 underdog.

There’s an outstanding middleweight bout that’s been getting minimal promotion/hype this week, but it’s a scrap that’s guaranteed to be a thriller! Unbeaten Paulo Costa will take on Yoel Romero on the main card. As of Friday afternoon, most books had Romero listed as a -140 favorite, with Costa at +120 on the comeback. The total was 1.5 rounds (‘over’ -125, ‘under’ -105).

The 28-year-old Costa (12-0 MMA, 4-0 UFC) has finished all 12 of his career fights, collecting 11 victories by KO and one by submission. His first nine career fights, including his UFC debut against Garreth McLellan, were first-round finishes. The Brazilian has won his past three fights with second-round KOs, dusting Uriah Hall, former welterweight champ Johny Hendricks and Oluwale Bamgbose.

Romero (13-3 MMA, 9-2 UFC) won a silver medal for Cuba in freestyle wrestling at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. The 42-year-old has only lost to current middleweight champ Robert Whittaker, who won a narrow UD over Romero at UFC 213 and a split decision at UFC 225. Romero owns notable scalps over former middleweight kingpins Luke Rockhold and Chris Weidman, in addition to a victory over former light-heavyweight champ, Lyoto Machida. Other wins have come against Tim Kennedy, Jacare Souza, Brad Tavares and Derek Brunson.

Prediction: Somebody is going to bed early. Let’s go with two units on ‘under’ 1.5 rounds at the -105 price!

B.E.’s Octagon Nuggets

-- One more pick: Let’s go with Ian Heinisch for one unit at a -145 price against Derek Brunson.

-- TMZ released a video Thursday of former UFC double champion Conor McGregor punching an elderly man in the face at Dublin pub. The footage was from an incident in April and was another gross portrayal of McGregor’s out-of-the-cage behavior. McGregor placed multiple shot glasses in front of several bar patrons and was pouring drinks of his Proper Twelve Whiskey. The victim immediately moved his shot glass away to the edge of the bar toward the bartender. When McGregor put another glass in front of him, the older man again moved the glass away and turned down McGregor’s drink offer. There’s no volume on the video, so there’s no way to pick up what sort of verbal exchange went down. But seconds after moving a second shot glass away, McGregor punched the man with a left hand. The gentleman took the punch like a champ and multiple people ushered McGregor out of the bar. Once again, not a good look whatsoever for ‘The Notorious.’

-- The UFC released former women’s bantamweight title challenger Cat Zingano earlier this week. This is a head-scratching move, as Zingano is one of only two women who have beaten current double champ, Amanda Nunes. Zingano also has a win over former 135-pound queenpin, Miesha Tate.

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